Landmarks of Donald J. Trump foreign policy

From the first days of the American presidential primaries the world followed Trump’s discourse with both fear and astonishment. This mixed feeling is mainly due to the harsh and unprecedented tone used by the candidate. In fact, Donald Trump attacked everybody: women, blacks, disabled persons, Muslims, Jewish, Mexican etc. Moreover, the man’s foreign policy was not clear and the whole world was suspicious about the outcome of Trump’s arrival to the White House. Apart from his good relations with Russia, he showed a very dark future of the world diplomacy.

He began his campaign with a crisis with Mexico claiming that he would build a wall between the USA and Mexico and make the neighbouring country pay for the costs. He also attacked China, promised to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and to ban Muslims from entering his country in addition to a wide number of controversial issues he raised during his electoral campaign.

The victory of Trump in the primaries made people from all stripes sympathy with the Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton who was considered as the least of two evils and who is able to preserve stability in the world.

Once Trump was elected the 45thpresident of the United States of America, the world became negotiating the impact of this political change in international diplomacy and speculating the future of international relations. Experts’ opinions were divided between those who claim that Mr. Trump can never go ahead with his promises because they will bring trouble not only to America but to the whole world while others insist that Trump has to keep his pledges because he was elected on that basis.    In the following paper, we are trying to study  the possible impact of the rise of Trump on the international relations attempting to find out the possible effect of this international political change on North Africa and particularly on Tunisia. This reading is based on three axes:Trump’s promises, his political background  and the profile of his cabinet members. The study relies mainly on articles from the New York Times newspaper, The Economist and Times magazines of the first three weeks following Trump’s inaugural speech.

 Trump’s Promises between reality and mere threats

Not only did common people feel astonished by the election of Mr. Trump but also well known politicians including the French President François Holland and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel who both supported Hilary Clinton. These politicians  were eagerly waiting for the first signs of the new president’s international relations. In Mexico, Palestine, Israel, China and a number of European countries  people were not sure whether Mr. Trump will carry on preserving his old promises like building the wall on the Mexican borders, eviction of immigrants from the country and banning Muslims from entering the country or simply forgetting about all his previous promises and adopting new principles that may help keeping the world’s bonds tight.

Trump’s inaugural speech did not bring a lot about his new policy. He insisted again and again that America first and America should be only for Americans so that it becomes greater again. He says “gone are the days when America extended its defensive Umbrella without compensation, or spent billions to try to lift the fortune of foreign nations, with no easy-to-measure strategic benefits for the U.S.” Therefore it’s time, according to him to give priority for Americans. These arguments introduced by Trump during his inaugural speech are cases to defend his isolationism politicy. He feels as if he is protecting America from the endless demands  of support from all over the world.

Mr. Trump seems contradicting himself when he announced that he will not support outside military intervention but at the same time he promised to fight terrorism widespread in countries like Syria, Irak and North Africa. The  question that can be asked here is whether the United States is going to help these countries by providing weapons and fighting tools or that American military forces are going to have a direct confrontation with ISIS in the previously mentioned areas.

The first week of Trump’s administration proved that what the new president claimed during his electoral campaign were real pledges and not mere promises of an enthusiastic candidate. The pivotal points tackled during the first week were the presidential decree banning immigrants from seven Muslim countries from entering America and the demand from Mexicans to pay for the construction of the wall dividing Mexico and the United States. Although both decisions were strongly opposed by Americans and non Americans, Trump insisted again and again that he is faithful to his promises and as he announces many times “I’m not a person who breaks promises.”  These promises however created conflicts with many countries like Iran and Mexico.  In Iran, authorities decided to ban American from entering the country in a similar treatment while the Mexican president cancelled a visit to the United States after a strong pressure from the opposite.

Donald Trump’s decree banning the Muslims of seven countries from entering the states was made null and void by judicious decision and the plan to make Mexico pay for the wall is doomed to failure. So what remained for Mr. Trump? Is he going to carry on with his electoral promises or adopt new strategy? To understand this, we have to go back to the man’s character and understand his political background.

Donald J. Trump’s Character    

As stated in an article in The Economist, relations between states for Trump follow the art of the deal. The journalist says that “Mr. Trump acts as if he can get what he wants from the sovereign states by picking fights that he is willing to settle-at a price, naturally.” He even goes further to deduce that Trump’s mistake is that he thinks of countries like business. In fact, Trump cannot make a border line between business and politics. He borrows a lot of strategies from the business sector to serve his political ends. This strategy is harshly criticized by politicians and experts who think that diplomacy should not be built on supply and demand policy. Instead, the developed countries should respect its historical responsibility towards developing ones and help in solving problems like poverty, interior crises, refugees suffering mainly from areas of conflicts.

These interventions of wealthy countries like America  are not a gift but commitments and conventions signed by the leading countries in the world like the Geneva Convention that focuses basically on  the protection of civilians during wars. Today even in commerce and economy, countries try to enter unions and cooperations to work together because they think that they can no longer face globolization seperately. Even most developed countries are following this strategy and the well known proof is the European Union that was started by the most privilidged countries in  Europe and later joined by less advantedged ones.

Applying his business isolationism approach, Mr. Trump is trying to disconnect the United States from its international environment. Adopting the ideology of America First is in a way an imitation of  businessmen’s behaviour towards each others. They try to hide their cards so that they make their affairs blossom and flourish first and then may integrate with other partners. The world of business is governed by competition and in an era of globolization only the stongest ones can resist. Bearing in mind that Mr. Trump is basically coming from the business sector, he cannot easily accept the open door  policy. Not  only did he attempt to detatch his country from the rest of the world but he harshly criticized other conutries’ cooperative policy. In an article entitled “Can Germany Learn to Understand Trumpish, “it is stated that Trump referred to Angela Merkel as someone who deserves great respect but he considered her refugees policy as “catastrophic mistake.”  He also thinks NATO is useless. As for European Union, he gladly welcomed the Brexit calling it a great thing and expecting other countries to leave the union. It is obvious, therefore that the new American president does not prefer this atmosphere of collectivism and supports indivudialism. This is why he threatens to leave agreements like NAFTA, expell of immigrants and force Mexico to pay for the wall.

Reading Mr Trump’s behaviour is a good way to decipher his ideology about international relations. His cabinet structure and the names chosen for each mission can be also a key to read the future of world diplomacy after Trump.

Trump’s Cabinet: the Orientation

If we have a look at the nominations in Trump adminstration, we cobviously note that he picked up names from his “inner circle. “Hope Hicks for example who has become one of Trump’s most trusted aides is a former fashion model and maven for Ivanka Trump. In turn, Keith Sciller, new director of the Oval Office Operation has been working for Trump since 1999 as a bodyguard and aide. The list remains long but just to add other few names, we can mention Dan Scavino who is the director of social media and who started working for Trump as a golf caddy. We should not also forget Jared Kuchner, his 36-year-old son- in-law and Steve Bannon, Trump’s alter ego who are appointed as main advisers. This is not an exhaustive list but it displays the orientation of Trump’s mind while nominating his secretaries and his cabinet officers. These nominations go hand in hand with his isolationism policy. He wants to keep his secrets inside a small group of people whom he already knows from a long time and trust them.

As for the ideological and political orientation, most of Trump’s chosen Cabinet members seem to share with him the same opinions. The newly appointed attorney-general, Jeff Session is an immigrant hawk dogged by historical allegation of racism. Mr. Tellerson, the new secretary of state calls for better relations with Russia. He also suggests that NATO could be obsolete but at the same time, he says that America should not quit the UN’s Paris accord on climate change. As for the treasury security, Stephen Mnuchin is for adopting strict laws against immigration. On his part, James Mattis, secretary of defence is more conservative towards Russia and criticized Israeli settlement unlike David Freedman the newly appointed ambassador in Israel, who vehemently opposes a two- state resolution and raises money for settlement. The most important man in Trump’s cabinet is Steve Bannon, a person who is known for his racist views toward blacks

From this brief reading of the profile of newly appointed cabinet members we can see that it’s sufficient enough to say Trump’s administration is built mainly upon his well known figures who are going to apply his strategy both inside and outside the States. Within this very conservative administration there are few instances of those who do not agree to a large extent with Trump’s strategy like the Secretary of Defence who is both against Russia and the Israeli settlement. Such a man can diminish the tension between Trump’s conservatives and liberals

No one can deny that the new president is bringing new strategies regarding international relations. In a world witnessing daily crises and inherited problems like the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as well as problems of poverty, diseases and terrorism, it is unexpected that the United States is going to play a passive role. Once it takes the initiative to play a role it is doubtful whether it is going to be a positive or negative one. Let’s take Palestinians as example, the first signs prove that the role is negative as Trump’s administration is resigning from the accords to establish the two states resolution and therefore supporting more Israeli influence in the region.

As far as North Africa region is concerned, the new administration has not shown any particular attention. Tunisians , in particular are eagerly waiting for the possible military intervention in the neighbouring Libya or a peaceful settlement of the the crisis there . Once the Libyan crisis is solved, Tunisia can kill two birds with one stone. First, terrorist groups will weaken with stability in Libya and job opportunities will rise for Tunisian mainly with the reconstruction plans  of Libya.

Tunisians, however may feel afraid with the foreign policy of Trump’s government because of its view to islamists as source of trouble in the world. The declaration of the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists may have its negative impact on Tunisia as one of the leading parties in  the national unity government, Ennahda bears islamist backgroud.

In my opinion, the key to carry on  good relations with the new administration is  to have a good relation with Russia because Trump seems to advocate the old saying the friend of my friend is my friend but can this be valid with the case of Iran?

Ramzi Rhimi

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